I attended the kick-off meeting to the 2012 season of the Boston Product Management Association’s Executive Committee on Mentoring. This is the third year it’s been running, and I’m both happy and proud to be part of it again. It’s such a great experience.
After a short round of introductions, we jumped into our two questions for the session. I’ve summarized the take-away points from the discussion at my table, as well as some of the other read-out discussion points surfaced by others.
One note before I summarize the points… During introductions, we all said our name, title, where we work, and a sentence or two about us – pretty standard stuff. One mentee in particular said something noteworthy enough for me to write it down: “… and I’m excited to learn something!” What a great way to make an impression!
Question 1: How can Product Managers utilize social media to do their jobs effectively?
- What’s the impact of social media on Product Management and Product marketing, from the internal perspective (not necessarily the outbound/promotional/advertising perspective)?
- Focus on verbs – focus on what you, as a PM, need to do (by identifying the verbs), and see if using a social tool will help you with that
- Answer this: how would you do this offline, or without social and digital? Can you now do it better/faster/cheaper/more broadly with social?
- Form groups or communities of interest
- Connect across function, role, challenge, or geography; find common ground
- Leverage digital/social to empower face-to-face connections
- Check to see if you have guidelines and adhere to them
- Adoption and uptake are dependent upon industry, company age, company culture
- Also varies by major market flavor: B2B, B2C, B2G, B2E, etc.
- One could even use it externally solely to listen and ‘pain point collection’
- Use for Competitive intelligence
- Conduct or round up impromptu focus groups
- One participant: “we blog internally” – how much commentary do you get? “Some, but little” ß better than none!
- On the internal side, find scale-free tools – yammer
- What makes the tool adoptable? Senior management buy-in and use, early identification of champions, tie back to business case/business effectiveness
- One participant: “It’s hard to demonstrate this in the B2B space” – what if you make a community private, and establish the quid pro quo of ‘executives helping executives’?
- Pitch the value of exclusivity
- The central challenge is trust, especially getting value out of contribution
- But… “you gotta start somewhere, though” – need some champions and need to elevate them
- One participant: “60% of the value of the post is from the comments!” ß I agree
- One participant: “Do any of you use social tools for idea and feature collection?” (examples cited were UserVoice and Imaginatik and GetSatisfaction)
- Good for startups but a challenge if you have a legacy or veteran product (i.e., where the feature backlog is already deep)
- Question re: using these services: “Is there an implicit promise to users that you’ll act on all of the features?”
- Focus on scale
- Are you using it simply for the sake of using it? Or because it makes sense?
- One participant: “We use the tracking ability in our marketing automation software to help measure the uptake and clicks of certain items. We use the data to help determine which marketing efforts to support.”
- Use metrics as a way to see which ideas have merit
- One participant: “We identified the influencers using social tools”
- How do you want to use it? Are you looking to gather a high volume of content? Or higher quality content?
- One participant example: a client of theirs built a small social community around a specific niche or topic or role; by definition, they weren’t going to see a high volume of content, but it was almost all on-point/relevant, and useful, since it was a niche topic with specific invitees
- Social media helps for problem solving perspective and idea generation
- Don’t take social media as a substitute for an internal strategy
- You don’t need to take all the feedback from all of your customers (you almost can’t!)
- Need to differentiate between social media for product management vs. outbound marketing
- Use it as a supplement to traditional market research
- Can be used as a controlled customer discussion
- Idea of virtual events (as a way to mitigate the high cost of travel, etc.)
- Can use social media internally to create/promote a competition for a problem to be solved, award a prize, use the results
Question 2: What are the best ways to become a reputable Product Management or Product Marketing Executive?
- Make others aware of your accomplishments without being gaudy or showy; don’t “peacock” too much
- People need to be aware of your value
- Classic mantra: influence without authority
- If you can get others to buy into your vision, then they can start to see your worth
- Consider collaborative problem solving (e.g., one person starts to solve an issue, then passes it to another person to contribute or finish; now you can all take credit)
- One participant: I created a PM charter to help others [a] understand what my role is and isn’t; [b] show them that I know what I’m talking about; and [c] help differentiate the role from the individual
- Show what you know outside of your group
- Great quote” PM is the glue role that holds together the rest of the functional roles, like QA and marketing.”
- If you focus so much on glue and not core PM skills and responsibilities, you might feel a bit fragmented
- Meet often to forge, foster, and maintain relationships
- Separate out your product from your role as a product manager; don’t ignore the product, but make sure that they are not groups together
- Focus on what you might be judged on, and work in those areas (e.g., new idea introduction, number of customer touch points, resolution of issues… these are not necessarily tied to the product itself)
- What are the cool or valuable (as seen by the organization) skills that your bosses have?
- Go Google your name – do the results demonstrate ‘leadership’ and ‘reputable manager’?
- What pronouns to people use in an interview? “they made some decisions” vs. “we made some decisions” ; “I” vs. “we”
- Take the responsibility to admit and show mistakes
- How do you get that break into the director level position? Consider taking on a role or task proactively; join a group (like the BPMA); look at your boss’ job model
All in all, another great BPMA mentoring session!
image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akay/61787601/
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